Perhaps the easiest, and most common thing to learn to can is applesauce. You only need a few things to get a shelf full of yummy apples for winter, apples, water, a blender, jars, and a canner.
True Story: My first experience with canning was with applesauce. I didn’t have a real water bath canner, just a large stock pot with a towel at the bottom.
I literally had to cook the apples, blend them up, and then wash out the pot, fill it with water to boil so I could do 4 quarts at a time. A bushel of apples took me nearly two days to complete! But, hey, I did it, right?
Here’s an easier way to learn how to can applesauce.
Best Apples for Applesauce
There is just so much that you can do with applesauce! Whether you like to eat it right out of the jar, warmed up over a scoop of ice cream, or mixed into oatmeal or yogurt, this versatile treat is easy to make with the apples you have on hand.
You can make applesauce out of any kind of apples. However, the best are those that are softer, since they’ll cook down faster. I recommend making applesauce out of apples that are just starting to spoil – those that have some soft spots or even areas that have turned totally brown are perfect for applesauce!
Some of the best apples for applesauce include:
- ☑ Crispin
- ☑ Cortland
- ☑ Golden Delicious
- ☑ Fuji
- ☑ Pink Lady
- ☑ McIntosh
When it really comes down to it, though, you can use any apples you have on hand. If you don’t grow your own apples on your homestead, you can always check around at local orchards.
One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to look for orchards that are selling drop apples in bulk – often, these are the ones that have fallen prematurely off the tree and might have various bumps and blemishes.
Drop apples aren’t the best for eating fresh but boy, do they make delicious applesauce! And inexpensive, too, to boot.
Make the Applesauce
Before you learn how to make your own applesauce, you need to learn how to make it fresh! Here are the steps to follow.
- 6 apples
- ⅓ cup warm water
- sugar optional – if using sweeter apples, like Pink Ladies, you won’t have to worry about adding sugar
- spices and herbs optional – cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are good options
- First, wash the apples and cut into quarters.
- Slide your knife at an angle to remove the core, leaving the apple skin on. You can peel them if you want, but you really don’t have to.I recommend peeling if you don’t want the skins in your applesauce, but apple skins do add some healthy fiber to your diet, if that’s what you’re after! However, if you are making this applesauce for very young children, remove the skins to eliminate the choking hazard.If you decide to peel the apples, consider investing in a peeler, slicer, or corer – or ideally, all three. This will make the task much quicker and easier!
- Then, place your apples in a large pot, without crowding, and cover with water. A medium-size saucepan is usually perfect for six apples. Add just enough water to prevent the apples from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Bring to a boil slowly, as the apples cook down. You will want to continue cooking them until they are soft. Stir every two minutes while you’re cooking.
- When they are soft and mushy, remove the pot from the heat and transfer the apples to a blender or food processor. You may want to wait until the apples are cool to start mixing!
- Blend until they are smooth, or as chunky as you like. Some people prefer chunkier applesauce, but I like mine nice and creamy.
- Now is the time when you can add any optional add-ins to your applesauce. You can play around with spices if you want to get creative – cinnamon, in my opinion, is a must, and freshly grated ginger is another good choice.
Some people (over 21, of course) add a little splash of bourbon to their applesauce! For the most part, you can add up to a tablespoon of herbs and spices to your applesauce per quart without having to worry about it altering the canning recipe – I wouldn’t add any alcohol or anything besides spices if you are going to can, just because there aren’t many proven recipes that you know will be safe.
Canning Applesauce Safely: Water Bath or Pressure Canner
When it comes to which method is best for canning applesauce – pressure canning or water bath – the jury is still out. A lot of people recommend against pressure canning applesauce because the sauce can get frothy and run all over the place if you aren’t careful.
However, for the most part, it’s up to you. Pressure canning will allow you to process a larger number of jars more quickly – however, if you don’t already have a pressure canner (or know how to use one) a water bath canner is perfectly safe.
Not only that, but most applesauce canning recipes are designed for water bath canners, so it may be easier for you to learn the ropes with this more simplistic style of canning.
Applesauce is a high-acid food that doesn’t require extra acidity in order to be canned in a water bath canner safely – that’s unlike foods like vegetables, which are low acid and need to be canned in a pressure bath canner.
The exception to this is if you add a ton of other ingredients to your applesauce. Most herbs and spices should be fine in applesauce but if you start getting really fancy and adding many other ingredients, double check to see if the time needs to be adjusted in your recipe.
Don’t forget to adjust the canning time for altitude, too! This is a common mistake that many people make when first learning how to.
What About Open Kettle Canning?
Rather than water bath canning, some people try to use open kettle canning as a technique for canning applesauce. I do not recommend this. It will reduce the likelihood of a strong vacuum seal and can increase the likelihood of spoilage.
The same goes for thickening applesauce. Don’t attempt it if you plan on canning.
While you can add things like tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, or cornstarch to applesauce that you are cooking up to be eaten fresh, don’t add thickeners if you plan to – it can adjust the consistency and heat distribution of the product.
If you’re going to make applesauce, do it the way I’ve recommended below – or skip the canning entirely and refrigerate or freeze your finished product instead.
Applesauce Canning Recipe
- Water bath canner (or large stockpot)
- Jar lifter or tongs
- Canning jars
- Lids and bands (get fresh, brand-new lids each time you can, but bands can be reused)
- Old dish towels
- 7 quarts applesauce about 28 cups, or 4-5 batches of the recipe detailed above
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice per jar
- If your applesauce isn’t still hot, you need to heat it back up so that you can hot pack it into jars. Return the applesauce to a rolling boil.
- While you wait, sanitize your jars, lids, and bands. You can do this in the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle or even just in a sink filled with hot water. They should be hot and sterilized when you’re ready to start loading applesauce!
- Fill the jars, allowing about half an inch of headspace to remain. While you are filling the jars, you can fill your canner with water. The amount of water you need will vary depending on the type and size of canner you have – but keep in mind there will need to be enough water to cover the top of the jars (so the amount of water will also vary depending on whether you are canning pints or quarts).
- Carefully remove any and all air bubbles. This can help prevent any oxidation during and after canning.This is especially important for applesauce, as there can be a lot of them. Wipe the rims of the jars down to remove any lingering food particles.
- Put the lids on the jars and twist the bands on until they are “fingertip tight” – this means tightening with just your fingertips rather than using your entire hand to seal the jar.
- Load the jars into the canner rack. Try not to let them touch.
- Water bath process for 20 minutes for pints, 30 minutes for quarts.
- Don’t start the timer until the water is boiling! You may find that the water takes longer to get back up to a boil after you’ve loaded the jars (but loading only hot jars into the canner can help reduce this effect). Either way, the 20-30 minutes starts only after you’ve achieved a rolling boil.
- When the jars are done, you can leave them in the canner to cool down. If you have additional jars that need to be canned, remove them with your jar lifter or set of tongs (you may want to wear oven mitts so you don’t get steam burns on your hand from inside the hot canner).
- Place the hot jars on a dish towel to cool. Make sure the jars are out of the direct path of a breeze or draft, as this can cause them to crack. Do not flip them upside down. As the jars cool, you may hear quiet little popping sounds. Don’t be alarmed! This is simply the jars sealing.
- Let the jars cool for 12-24 hours. Check to make sure the lids have sealed – if they haven’t, you should either eat the applesauce right away, refrigerate it, or freeze it. You can also attempt to do it once more.
- If the jars are good to go, put them in storage. They should be stored out of direct heat and sunlight, ideally in a cool, dark location like a basement or root cellar.
FAQ About Canning Applesauce
Some recipes for applesauce do not call for lemon juice. However, I always add lemon juice when I’m canning applesauce for two very important reasons – one more important than the other.
The first reason is that it helps to preserve the natural colors of the apples. It will prevent your jars of applesauce from turning an unpleasant brown color. The other reason has to do with food safety.
Usually, you won’t need to add any more acidity to your applesauce because the tartness of the fruit will take care of that for you – and render your applesauce safe for canning in a water bath canner. However, some varieties of apples and various harvesting conditions can lead to apples that are of significantly lower acidity.
Normally, you’ll be fine – but adding a dash of lemon juice to each jar will ensure that your jars stay safe in storage for much longer.
You should process applesauce in a water bath canner for 20 minutes for pints and 30 minutes for quarts. Remember, don’t start your timer until the water starts to boil.
You can – which is why it’s so important to make sure you follow a tried-and-true recipe like the one described above.
When applesauce spills out of the jars during canning, this is a process called siphoning. It is just the contents of the jar overflowing. Not only does this cause you to lose good product but it also increases the likelihood of the jar not sealing – plus, it makes an unholy mess out of your canner!
Because of this, it’s important to leave at least half an inch of headspace to accommodate for expansion. Also, the thinner your applesauce is, the less siphoning there seems to be.
You can also reduce the likelihood of siphoning by taking the canner off the heat, removing the canner lid, and waiting before removing jars. This equalizes the internal temperature in the jar to reduce the likelihood of a mess.
Most of the time, mold in applesauce is caused by issues with air. About 25% of an apple’s volume is actually air – this is why it’s so important to both heat the sauce adequately to stop all enzymatic reactions and to also remove air bubbles from the sauce after it has been poured into the jar.
Of course, adding lemon juice or ascorbic acid is another way to prevent your applesauce from molding or going bad in storage.
When stored in a cool, dark environment, canned applesauce stays delicious and fresh for at least one year but will remain safe to eat even longer than that – even many years, in some cases!
Have you canned applesauce before? How many jars did you preserve?
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.